Community rallies behind Norco family following 9-month-old’s cancer diagnosis, Ida devastation
“It’s the swing of emotions. It’s overwhelming one way, when we think about our baby having cancer and how it’s not fair. What helps you get through it is our community.”
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Blake and Abigail Estevez, both young parents from Norco, said they never could prepare for the heart-wrenching news: their 9-month-old baby girl, Blakely, had been diagnosed with kidney cancer.
When Abigail took Blakely in for a routine check-up on January 27, she asked that the staff also check a lump on Blakely’s stomach.
“She had done the wellness check, she was healthy, perfect,” Abigail said.
The team took Blakely for an ultrasound, and later in the day they returned with the devastating news no parent wants to hear.
“I could just tell the words that they were about to tell us,” she said.
Blakely had a Wilms tumor, a rare kidney cancer that affects children.
It was unimaginable news on top of an already stress-filled period that included Abigail and Blakely evacuating to Georgia during Ida.
Blake, a then-firefighter with the Houma Fire Department, stayed behind to work.
“It’s just this really weird, ominous feeling of telling your family bye,” Blake said. “I knew that I would be okay, we would make it through it, but just not knowing when I was gonna get to see them again.”
Their home sustained serious damaged during the storm. The nursery Blake and Abigail had built was destroyed.
“We took so much time to make that nursery cause we were so excited for our first baby, in our house, building as a family,” Abigail said. “Ida destroyed that.”
Now, they’re staying at a family member’s home on the Westbank while they repair their home. Blake is at work full-time as a Jefferson Parish firefighter, but his health insurance hasn’t kicked in yet.
Abigail’s plans to return to work full-time were put on hold by the cancer diagnosis, and she’s commuting part-time for her job as a pediatric occupational therapist.
“[Blakely’s] just never had a time in her own house, you know settled down. A normal life,” Abigail said.
The prognosis for Blakely is positive: the tumor was caught early by Abigail’s watchful eye, and Blakely is undergoing chemotherapy treatment now. She’s on week three of a six month treatment.
Still, with both parents uninsured, the diagnosis came at a bad time.
But that’s where the community stepped up. A friend started a GoFundMe page that’s raised more than $76,000, and businesses across St. Charles Parish are pitching in with their own fundraisers.
“This community gives back a lot, and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Haylie Neubeck, owner of Destrehan Nutrition.
One of many businesses across St. Charles Parish that is raising money for the family, Destrehan Nutrition donated part of its proceeds and has a fundraising jar set up on the counter.
“Everyone is willing to donate to this family,” Neubeck said.
Abigail and Blake said it’s the support both from the community and across the country that has lifted their spirits, along with Blakely’s giggles.
“It’s overwhelming one way, when we think about our baby having cancer and how it’s not fair. It’s hard for us to accept it,” Blake said. “What helps you get through it is our community.”
“There’s people out there who just have the biggest hearts,” Abigail said.
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